I was watching a YouTube clip of Terry Laughlin speaking at Multisport World Conference and Expo, 2009, where he was discussing the principles behind Total Immersion, a swimming technique focusing on minimizing resistance and improving swimming efficiency.
During his hour long talk, Terry told a quick, 20 second story which was lost in the entire talk, but struck a chord with me. (Listen to Terry tell the story. Note: Terry mentions the 1996 Olympics, but Greene won gold in 2000)
In the 2000 Olympics, Maurice Greene won the Gold Medal in the 100 meter dash . His coach, John Smith had a very specific pre-Olympic training focus — a strategy that would help him outlast the competition based on one piece of data.
Smith determined the top runners in the 100 meter dash would begin to slow down after 65 meters.
So, what is the gold medal secret?
Smith’s training focused on preparing Green to run a race in which he would begin to decelerate at 70 meters or later. Green’s training pushed him to maintain his acceleration until the 70 meter mark while his competition began to slow down.
Greene simply moved the wall.
I’ve learned every endurance event has a wall, the point in the race where you begin to decelerate and fail to keep the same pace and effort as you had previously. From 100 meters to the 100 mile, each race has a breaking point, even for the elites.
Not every wall is an epic collapse, although they can be spectacular. A wall could be a 5 second/mi drop off in a cross country meet, making the difference between first and fourth place.
If we are aware of the wall and we embrace it’s inevitability, we can now take on the solution of moving it like Greene and Smith did to prepare for the Olympics.
If we as athletes can learn to move that wall and slightly outlast the competition, it could be the difference between making a PR and just missing out.
The little story made me think a lot about training. I’ve looked some of my training runs or race data and find the time when I start to fade. I’m making it a goal of pushing it out further and further, past my rival, past the invisible person running next to me, pacing me for that a PR or a Boston Qualifying time.
I’ll work on the mental aspect just the same. I know in October when I’m coming up to Mile 22.5 of the Kansas City Marathon, my mind will warp back to 2011 and my epic collapse. When I start to get the dead legs, the raised HR and the heavy breathing, I’ll loosen up my shoulders and take a deep breath, pick up that wall and move it.
Where can you move the wall in your training?